U.S. economic activity increased in October and November, but lower oil prices were raising alarm in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas, according to a summary of economic conditions released Wednesday. The Beige Book, a collection of anecdotes about the economy, said that contacts in a number of the 12 Federal Reserve districts remained optimistic about the outlook. This report, prepared by the Chicago Fed, scrapped the long-standing description of "modest" or "moderate" growth seen in Beige Books since the recovery. In a sign of the many conflicting ways that lower energy prices impact the economy, many contacts thought lower gasoline prices were boosting consumer spending. But mining equipment sales were down. Chemical producers said they were at a disadvantage because they relied on natural gas while their foreign competition relied more heavily on oil. The Beige Book is based on information collected before Nov. 24.
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